Thursday, June 25, 2015

Maine Eats

I've stated before on the blog that Maine is one of my favorite places. I loved it the first time I visited and I've loved it every other time since. One of the main draws to Maine - see what I did there? - is eating lobster. Lots and lots of lobster!

But for someone who loves Maine I have one unique feature - I don't care for lobster. I've tried it. It just doesn't do much for me. But when we head up to The Vacation State, Mr. UR just can't get enough. So here are some of the things we ate in Maine - but mostly him.

Taking advantage of Maine blueberries, a blueberry beer from Kennebec River Brewery....

A lobster roll and fries from The Black Frog in Greenville, Maine on Moosehead Lake....

Poutine  (the Canadian delicacy of fries mixed with cheese curds covered in gravy) and a beer from Three Tides in Belfast, Maine....

Lobster  eaten at our vacation cabin - Hannaford's Grocery Store will steam them for you if you order them ahead and then you can pick them up....

Another quintessential Maine item - the Whoopie Pie.. Two devils food cookies with whipped frosting in between. I try to try as many as I can while in Maine. I even had Whoopie Pie fudge from Perry's Nut House in Belfast, which I highly recommend trying.

And last but not least, lobster grilled cheese  from Linda Bean's restaurant across from the LL Bean superstore in Freeport, Maine...

Of course, that doesn't cover them all - just a small sampling when I remembered to take a picture. Or we weren't so hungry that we ate before we could even think about taking a picture. All were reported as good. You gotta love Maine!

I'm linking up with Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Traveler's Sandbox,Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute  and Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels  so go give them a look-see!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chimney Rock

The lady at the ticket window said that the rate to get into Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina would be discounted to $12 today because the elevator to the top wasn't working. "Well", I asked "how difficult is the climb?" She responded with "Oh, not bad. It's 491 steps on a staircase." And she showed us a picture. We took a few seconds to respond with, Ok, Let's Do This!

My friend Susan had willingly agreed to a trip to Lake Lure and Chimney Rock in North Carolina. I hadn't been in a long time and decided that spring would be the perfect time to go. We were at Chimney Rock in the morning so the heat wouldn't be bad. Why not climb to the top? And so we did.

Chimney Rock only recently became a state park - in 2007. Before that it was privately owned by the Morse family for 100 years. Dr. Morse came to the area after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. He bought the Chimney and surrounding area in 1902 and started a dirt road up the property to the cliffs in 1916. He even built his family home on that dirt road.

Dr. Morse was a very smart man,  as it is one of the most beautiful views around. That's the view of Lake Lure from the top of Chimney Rock.

It's not only known for it's great views, it's also famous for being the filming spot for the 1992 movie "The Last of the Mohicans" starring Daniel Day-Lewis. You can hike many more trails besides the hike to the top and see some of the spots from the movie.

We made it the 491 steps to the top of the Chimney. I'll admit I was winded and my legs felt like jelly. But I didn't have as much problem as I thought I would. I'd even do it again!

Chimney Rock State Park is located 25 miles southeast of Asheville, North Carolina in the village of Chimney Rock. Normal admission to the state park is $15. But it will be discounted for awhile as it appears that the elevator is closed indefinitely. There is a gift shop, restrooms and a snack bar (with a wicked view) at the top.

I'm linking up for Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute, Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner,  Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels and Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Traveler's Sandbox  so go check them out!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Tokyo's Meiji Shrine

In all the places that we went in the city of Tokyo, my favorite was Meiji Shrine. Known in Japanese as Meiji Jingu, it is dedicated to the souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. Known as the Emperor of Enlightenment, Emperor Meiji was one of the first to bring the outside world into Japan. He cut off his topknot, wore Western clothes and even enjoyed wine with his dinner. He died in 1912 and she died in 1914. The shrine was begun in 1915 and some 100,000 trees were donated and planted by hand by volunteers. It covers over 700,000 acres in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world. And when you walk into this incredibly calm oasis, you would never know that..

We visited on a midweek February afternoon and the weather was perfect. The shrine, which is a Shinto shrine, is free to visit. You first enter through a Torii  (which marks a Shinto shrine) and begin  a long and meandering walk through the peaceful forest.

One of the first things you come to on your long walk, is a wall of sake barrels on one side and wine barrels on the other. These are donated every year by the Sake Association in Japan and by the wine growers of Bourgogne, France.

You walk under the largest Torii in Japan and continue your walk to the actual grounds of the shrine.

I wish I could convey the quiet, calm and peacefulness that you feel when you are here. The fact that the Harajuku area of Tokyo, one of the busiest shopping areas of the city, is only a few blocks away is amazing.

The Shinto religion is called the ancient Japanese religion because it gels most with the Japanese philosophy of life. It has no founder, no holy book or no religious conversion,. It seeks harmony with nature and a good heart. And it's leaders are said to have a "divine spirit".

My daughter and I paid an offering to the shrine. You must bow twice, clap your hands twice, make a wish (if you like) and bow once again. No photos are allowed near the main buildings and everyone must show reverence while visiting here - no loud talking, eating or drinking.

If you travel to Tokyo and the hustle and bustle of the city start wearing on you, head to Meiji Shrine. It's an oasis of calm and beauty. Don't miss it!

I'm linking up with Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Traveler's Sandbox, Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels,Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner  and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute  so travel over and check them out!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Pikes Peak and The Adult Tricycle Race

I had never been to Pikes Peak, that famous Coloradoan peak of  America, The Beautiful fame. So, on a trip to Denver to visit my son we all piled into the car and took a day trip to Colorado Springs.

The famous cog railway of Pikes Peak

We arrived at the entrance gate to pay our fee and the gentlemen leaned in to tell us that there would be a possible delay of up to 30 minutes from mile marker 11 to 14 due to an adult tricycle race. What?! I'm immediately thinking of the 3 wheeled bicycles with baskets that are popular with the retired set in Florida. We had no idea what to expect! So up we went. And up and up and up....

America the Beautiful marker

We made a couple stops at some of the pull-offs to see the views. (We didn't run into any adult tricycle  racing yet) We made it to the top and got out of the car just as one of the cog railways was arriving which was pretty cool to see. We took in all the views and read all the historical plaques and markers. As one does at the top of Pikes Peak.

Zebulon Pike marker

We even experienced a few snow flurries at the top! All in all, a very cool experience with awesome views.

Sure enough, on the way down we were stopped and told it would be about 30 minutes while the adult tricycle races went on. What else to do but park and watch? Here's what they looked like.

And I didn't even know it was a thing! They really seemed to be having fun though I'm not sure I would chance using hay bales as barriers on the roads of Pikes Peak! So we ended up with a two for one special - at drive up Pikes Peak and an adult tricycle race. It's always an adventure!

Things to know about Pikes Peak
Elevation is 14,114 feet so don't chance it if you have health problems where elevation is an issue
If you book online beforehand at the entrance fee is $10.80 per adult. You can also find out much more information on Pikes Peak and the surrounding area there.
The Pikes Peak Cog Railway takes 3 1/2 hours round trip and currently costs $37 per adult and $20 per child. The train station is located in Manitou Springs, CO and parking is $5
You can also hike up or ride a bike up Pikes Peak if you are so inclined.
There is a gift shop, snack bar, and restrooms located at the top but no other food facilities on the way up or down

I'm linking up! Go check out Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Traveler's Sandbox,Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels  and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner  for some travel inspiration!